“Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about…”
So said Stephen Spielberg, and if anyone should know about the magic of cinema it is Spielberg. From Raiders of the Lost Ark to E.T. to Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg has made some of the most memorable films of modern cinema.
I have always loved film.
Em and I regularly immerse ourselves in these other worlds, be they the latest Hollywood blockbusters or, when the mood takes us, a film from abroad. The poignant beauty of Uzak, the mischievous brilliance of Amarcord and the stark honesty of 35 Shots of Rum are among the films that have helped us pass many a Sunday afternoon curled on the sofa. If we are feeling brave we might try some of the more obscure and occasionally extreme cinema from around the world. In these moments we’ve flinched at the likes of Requiem for a Dream by Darren Aronofsky, sat shell-shocked through examples of the New French Extremity and laughed at the comic-book ultra-violence of Asian martial arts movies such as The Machine Girl. Or if it has been a particularly crappy week at work, it’s hard to beat a bit of Quentin Tarantino to Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill those particularly Inglorious Basterds you work with…
And, just sometimes, there is something so truly magical about a film that it burns itself into the memory, taking on a peculiar reality all of its own that weaves its narrative into your imagination in vivid and brilliant ways.
I remember, for instance, the first time I became aware of Star Wars, the fantastical saga by George Lucas set in a galaxy far, far away. Dad had scooped up my cousin and me and taken us off to Chelmsford (I think it was Chelmsford!) to see The Jungle Book. As we went into the cinema we could see the queues for Star Wars. And as I gazed up at a cinema screen for the very first time, the trailer, accompanied by the majesty of John Williams‘s towering score, blew me away, taking my overactive imagination off to the Millenium Falcon and the race to rescue Princess Leia from the clutches of Darth Vader (it was a long time before I realised I really wanted to be Han Solo, not Luke Skywalker). Years later I finally saw the film and I remember how excited I was when I learned I would finally get to see it, albeit on a small television rather than the big screen.
It was a similar sense of childish excitement that gripped me in anticipation of the start of Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I remember the dark flickerings on the screen and the spine-tingling hush in the dark theatre as Cate Blanchette‘s Galadriel whispered: “The world is changed. I feei it in the water, I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost. For none now live who remember it.”
There is something quite awesome about Jackson’s capacity to fully immerse you in a world of elves and orcs, dark lords and lost kings and the Lord of the Rings trilogy deservedly won Total Film’s “Epic of the decade” accolade. Even now, eight years on (eight years!), I still get goosebumps when I picture that spectacular scene where Gandalf, riding Shadowfax, leads two thousand riders under the command of Éomer to charge down Saruman’s Uruk-hai. (And yes, I don’t care that it is different in the book – it works on film!)
When a series of films has captured your imagination so completely, it is with a sense of dread that you stumble across stories on the internet of fan-made films. There is nothing quite like the post-ironic comment of a clever-dick student spoof to destroy the sense of childish wonder that fuels excited reminiscinces. On first reading about “Born of Hope” I groaned inwardly and thought that, after the eye-watering budgets that Jackson needed to transport us to Middle Earth, a fan film would be a truly dreadful exercise in wrecking the magic of his majestic trilogy.
My trepidation was hugely magnified when I learned that the director, Kate Madison, was also writer, star, budget manager, wardrobe manager, producer, prop maker, costume designer and camera operator.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Born of Hope” is a stunningly realised homage to Jackson’s interpretation of Middle Earth. Madison, who spent her life savings of £8000 on the film, topped up with £17,000 in donations inspired by a trailer she posted on YouTube, has created something truly remarkable that complements Jackson’s trilogy in a way you cannot conceive until you’ve seen it.
Everything about it is first rate.
The acting, the battle scenes, the score, the costumes, the camera work, the dialogue… If there is such a thing as genius in film-making, then Madison is surely such.
The story of Arathorn and Gilraen, the parents of Aragorn, is barely a couple of paragraphs buried in the appendices of Tolkien’s sprawling saga. Madison has somehow turned these few lines that most will probably have never read into a gripping story of love, loss and battle that is entirely worthy of Jackson.
If this all sounds loony, and you think I am exaggerating, read the four star review “Born of Hope” received in The Times – and watch it free on You Tube.
Kate Madison’s gift to all of us who loved Jackson’s trilogy is 71 minutes of magic that evoke the shivers you felt the first time you saw the Nazgûl emerge from the shadows – and reminds you of those heart-pounding adrenaline surges as you glimpsed a flash of Aragorn’s blade or Gimli’s axe or Legolas’s deft bowmanship.
“Born of Hope” is £25,000, incredible talent and a whole lot of movie love.
You’ll never see Epping Forest the same way again.
Due to a copyright claim by Konami Digital Entertainment Co. Ltd “Born of Hope” is no longer available on YouTube (what the hell is all the corporate vulturing about?). However, it is now available to watch on Daily Motion. Enjoy the brilliant efforts of Kate Madison and her cast and crew.